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Georgetown whipping post removed

Shannon McNaught * Delaware
shannon.marvel@doverpost.com
Sussex Countian

The whipping post on the grounds of the Old Sussex County Courthouse in Georgetown has been taken down and placed in storage.

It was removed by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs July 1 “in response to calls from the community and in recognition of the violence and racial discrimination its display signifies to many Delawareans.”

“The most amazing about this is that it didn’t just start this week,” said Sussex County Democratic Party Chair and Richard Allen Coalition President Jane Hovington. “It’s something we’ve been working on for over the past three years or more.”

Use of the whipping post goes back to colonial times and continued into the 20th century. People were whipped up to 40 times for a variety of crimes. The punishment was “disproportionately applied to persons of color,” according to the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.

Delaware’s last whipping occurred in 1952, but the First State was the last state to officially abolish it as a form of punishment, in 1972.

Each of the three counties had a whipping post. There was one at the New Castle County jail, later moved to the New Castle County Courthouse.

In Kent County, the whipping post was next to the Old State House on The Green in Dover and then moved to Morris Correctional Facility. Originally painted red, it was known as “Red Hannah.”

The whipping post at Sussex Correctional Institution, just south of Georgetown, was put on display at the bustling corner of South Bedford and West Pine Streets in 1993.

“It is appropriate for an item like this to be preserved in the state’s collections, so that future generations may view it and attempt to understand the full context of its historical significance,” said Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs Director Tim Slavin. “It’s quite another thing to allow a whipping post to remain in place along a busy public street – a cold, deadpan display that does not adequately account for the traumatic legacy it represents, and that still reverberates among communities of color in our state.”

About 100 people showed up to watch the post be torn out of the ground in Georgetown July 1. The process took about two hours.

For now, it’s been moved to a storage facility. The division intends to display it in a museum setting, “where it can be properly contextualized and interpreted.”

“It’s time to put these kinds of things in museums. Not destroy them, because if you destroy them the generations coming behind us will not believe that this occurred,” said historian and civil rights advocate Reba Hollingsworth. “Let us not repeat the past. Let us use the past to make our present and our future better.”